AJAX, Ontario -- Canadian women’s softball coach Mark Smith believes Team USA would defeat his squad in any best-of series format, but in a do-or-die defensive duel on Sunday, Smith’s captured the Pan American Games gold medal with a 4-2 extra innings victory.
Sunday’s game marked only the second time in Pam Am Games history that the U.S. did not win the women’s softball gold medal. Canada won the 1983 Games in Caracas, Venezuela.
These teams play each other roughly half a dozen times per summer, and the Americans have largely held the upper hand. The U.S. entered the gold-medal game having already defeated Canada twice at the 2015 Pan Ams.
“If we played one another four out of seven, they’d win it. If we played one another 10 games, they’d win eight,” Smith said of the Americans. “But today was one game, winner take all, and we got the job done.”
U.S. coach Ken Eriksen noted that his team executed sound softball, but couldn’t overcome inopportune circumstances.
“It’s tough to coach against good fortune,” he said. “We hit the ball real well today and didn’t catch any breaks. When you hit them at them, it’s kind of tough to do things. Unfortunate things happened for us while fortunate things happened for them. I thought both teams hung in there really well.”
Neither team scored until the eighth inning – and with a free runner on second base by virtue of international rules – largely due to sound pitching. Of the 24 combined outs, 15 were via strikeout and scattered from four pitchers.
After seven scoreless innings, Canada manufactured four runs in the eighth – as many as the U.S. had allowed in its five Pan Am games to that point – including two from a bobbled grounder by third baseman Sierra Romero, following a missed popup by shortstop Kellie Fox due to sunlight to open the inning.
“Those things are going to happen when you play outdoors,” Eriksen said. “There’s no bad hops on a basketball court. Nobody gets lost in the lights on a basketball court. But when you come out in the elements, those are all things you take into consideration. It’s a tough break.”
Team USA was on the heels of a rally – countering with two runs in the eighth and having the winning run at the plate with two on – but Romero struck out looking to end the game.
Entering Sunday, the U.S. was 5-0 in the tournament and had outscored opponents 39-4.
“It’s disappointing not to win but our team was in it all the way until the end, and that’s all you can ask for – not to give up,” said left fielder Michelle Moultrie. “We were down there to the very last out and we were still in the game. It was a great game by Canada. Disappointing of not winning but still very proud of our team. We’re still building. Years to come, that’ll be a good experience for us.”